La Fille du Régiment
Minnesota Opera 2023, Arizona Opera 2015
As the third production in its sixtieth season, Minnesota offered a genuinely funny and at times tender Fille du Régiment, the cast of which included an honest-to-goodness professional drag queen, Monét X Change, in the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorpe.
The production, staged and choreographed by John de los Santos, was performed in the original French version with dialogue. What de los Santos presided over was funny and not without charm. Tonio, for instance, suddenly pulled a bouquet of flowers from behind a tree to give to Marie, and later, while singing her sad farewell at the of Act I, Marie slowly walked down a line of soldiers, each one saluting her as she passed by. De los Santos moved the soldiers around the stage in clever patterns.
“How I longed to laugh again in the company of a crowd, even if our facemasks would muffle our snorts and guffaws and remind us that we’re still dealing with a pandemic.
And if that laughter is spiced with some magnificent music, outstanding singing and fine stagecraft, then that would be an embarrassment of riches. Indeed, Minnesota Opera’s latest production fits that description. An uproariously funny version of Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment,” it’s filled with spectacular singing and loads of expertly executed comedy.
While departing St. Paul’s Ordway Music Theater at evening’s end, almost every overheard conversation contained the word, “fun,” and understandably so, as it overflowed with an infectious feeling of delight.
Donizetti has been a Minnesota Opera staple ever since it pledged allegiance to the “bel canto” style of Italian opera around the turn of this century, but this is the company’s first “Daughter of the Regiment.”
This production’s director and choreographer, John de los Santos, seems to have approached almost every scene with the intent of mining it for a gag, in the best possible way.
Foremost among them is soprano Vanessa Becerra as the title character, Marie. Hers is a voice of both prettiness and power, whether smoothly sliding into richly forceful high notes or bringing soft subtlety to a heartbroken aria of parting. She’s also hilarious, never more so than when reluctantly thrown into a ballet lesson.
But the performers who set the comic tone are mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak as the melodramatic La Marquise de Berkenfield and baritone Andrew Wilkowske as Marie’s primary parental figure, the supportive pushover, Sergeant Sulpice. They’re both scene-stealers, as is Monét X Change, a veteran of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” who does a lot more with the incidental role of La Duchesse de Krakenthorp than customary.
Played out on a lovely Boyd Ostroff set full of mountain vistas, this very enjoyable production might be the ideal introduction for anyone new to opera. If it doesn’t make you smile, it’s likely that no opera will.
TWIN CITIES PIONEER PRESS:
There’s a slew of very physical comedy in the production, stage directed by John de los Santos. The physical humor is most ably performed by Margaret Gawrysiak, who holds all of La Marquise de Birkenfeld’s contradictions together with clownish ease. Drag performer Monét X Change, an alumnus of RuPaul’s Drag Race, also takes a show-stealing turn as La Duchesse de Krakenthorp.
While light comedy reigns throughout most of the story, the stakes get raised significantly at the end of the first act so it verges on melodrama.
In all, the team has put together a light and entertaining production.
Minnesota Opera continues this season’s offerings with the light-hearted opera The Daughter of the Regiment. It is a wonderful blend of glorious music, giddy romance, and laugh-out-loud comedy, including splendidly staged physical humor.
The stage direction by John de los Santos mines the comedy inherent in the work, with wonderfully staged bumbling among the soldiers and clowning by Marie as she displays her tomboy nature, even in the midst of a ballet lesson. De los Santos also choreographed, creating a lovely bit for the other ballet students whose grace is pitted against Marie’s awkwardness, along with dance sequences for the men of the regiment, the townspeople celebrating the departure of French forces early on, and the guests at the would-be wedding of Marie and her high-born groom.
This production makes all the right choices, starting with casting Vanessa Becerra, David Portillo, and Andrew Wilkowske in the three largest roles. The musical conduction, staging and choreography, and design team do this work proud, and moreover, conspire to create an atmosphere of fun from the first note played to the drop of the final curtain.
CURTAIN UP PHOENIX
Arizona Opera just concluded its impressive 2014/15 season with a comically delightful and beautifully sung “Daughter of the Regiment.” It was stage director John de los Santos, in his Arizona Opera debut, that kept the opera’s pace brisk and crafted the richly amusing comic machinations.
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
It’s too bad you can’t rewind live performances. …it was the little things that director John de los Santos did that brought the biggest laughs throughout Saturday’s performance.